Saturday, June 25, 2011

The New War On Crime

In his latest blog post, Alex Himelfarb warns that -- after the Canada Post filibuster is over -- the opposition should turn its attention to the government's omnibus crime bill. That bill takes its inspiration from the four decade old American war on crime. The problem is that several Americans, who have been front line soldiers in that war, have declared it a failure.

Consider Asa Hutchinson, the former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Hutchinson "is now saying that we in Canada should avoid their mistakes, singling out often unfair mandatory minimum sentences and insufficient investment in preparing prisoners for reintegration."

Jonathan Simon has written a blistering critique of the American war on crime. His book, Governing Through Crime compiles a list of the collateral damage:

Simon tells us that the policy not only drew on the fears of Americans, fears about crime, fears about the future, fears of “the other”, it validated and nurtured those fears. And, in so doing, created a self-perpetuating machine. Tough could never be tough enough. It wasn’t enough to take away an offender’s freedom, hard time had to become harder and longer. Any new incident, every grizzly crime begged for more intense punishment, more people in jail for longer. When crime continued to rise, that called for more of the same, redouble the punishments, build more prisons. That’s how policies that just about nobody believes make any sense – three strikes and your out, for example – become law.  A self-perpetuating machine.

And, despite the clear evidence of failure, the Harper government proposes to boldly go where the Americans have been before. Their policy meets Albert Einstein's definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.

The opposition is going to be very busy.


Anonymous said...

I have to disagree on the insanity point, at least for the reasons you mention. I think they are expecting the same results that have been seen over and over again in the United States. Electorally speaking, those crime policies (which might be termed criminal policies) have worked for the Republicans in the USA for years.

Owen Gray said...

Perhaps you're right. The Republicans have convinced a majority of voters -- except during the Clinton and Obama administrations -- to vote against their own self interest.

And they have been pretty successful at undermining Obama.

When a party successfully plays the voters for chumps, the voters are in deep trouble.